Dueling rallies mark launch of Georgia’s runoff

Credit: File photos

Credit: File photos

Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker gathered with supporters as they enter overtime

Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff kicked off Thursday as incumbent Raphael Warnock and challenger Herschel Walker headlined dueling rallies to rev up supporters that each needs to come back out to the polls Dec. 6.

Warnock appeared in the afternoon with about 200 people at the iconic mural of deceased U.S. Rep. John Lewis in downtown Atlanta. Warnock, who had been reluctant early on in the campaign to attack his GOP rival, had no such reservations Tuesday.

“This race is about competence, and it’s about character,” the Democrat said. “When it comes to that, the choice could not be more clear between me and Herschel Walker. Some things in life are complicated; this ain’t one of them.”

Later in the day, Walker headlined a rally in Canton that felt like a pep rally. A boisterous crowd of hundreds packed into a tent to hear Walker, who evoked his years playing football.

“They said we’re in overtime,” he said. “Hey, I’m prepared for this.”

Credit: Daniel Vernando for the AJC

Credit: Daniel Vernando for the AJC

Appearing with Walker was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who delivered a fiery speech and also issued an invitation.

“Joe Biden, come to Georgia,” the Texas Republican said. “Come campaign alongside Raphael Warnock.”

As he has throughout the campaign, Walker also evoked Biden, whose approval rating in the state is about 37%, according to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll.

“I think the people have seen who (Warnock) represents; he represents Joe Biden and the people there in Washington because he’s voted with them 96% of the time,” Walker told Fox News host Sean Hannity in an interview the night before the rally. “And we don’t need to keep saying that; I think the people can feel it, they can see it.”

Cruz is one of a string of Republican senators who are expected to stump with Walker, knowing control of the Senate may rest on the outcome of Georgia’s race.

Currently, Republicans hold 49 seats and Democrats have 48, with three races undecided. Ballots are still being counted in Arizona and Nevada while Georgia is headed to a runoff because neither Warnock nor Walker received 50% of the general election vote.

In Atlanta, Warnock’s speech lasted just 15 minutes, but he used the words “competence” and “character” a half-dozen times each. He said Walker is not just inexperienced and unprepared but lacks a vision for how he would serve in Washington.

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

“Fundamentally, this is a race about right and wrong: who’s right for Georgia and who’s clearly wrong for Georgia,” Warnock said. “This race is about whether or not the person representing you has what it takes to take on these challenges for you and your family.”

U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and Nikema Williams, who serves as chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, both stood behind Warnock as he spoke. Afterward, Johnson said the party apparatus is prepared to go all-out to help ensure a Warnock victory.

“We’re going to get our votes out,” the Lithonia Democrat said. “This is hand-to-hand combat, door-to-door, phone-to-phone, cellphone-to-cellphone. Whatever it takes to get the votes out, that’s what we will be doing here in Georgia.”